More than 40 million people reported using treadmills regularly in the United States in 2000. By 2017, the number of treadmills users had climbed to more than 52 million, according to Statista, a number that continues to grow with each rising health and fitness trend.
Many people buy treadmills on marketplaces like Amazon using Amazon coupons to cash in on great discounts and reap the numerous benefits of this aerobic workout equipment. The global treadmill market itself is now projected will reach US$ 4220 million by 2023, up from US$ 3500 million in 2017, according to recent reports.
With the popularity of treadmills around the world, you might then wonder: what are the benefits of running on a treadmill versus running outside? Are there any particular benefits specific to treadmills, or are we just wasting time when working out on a treadmill?
Well, the benefits of treadmill workouts are many, ranging from weight loss, to improvement of cardiovascular capacity and power training for competitive distance races. Yep, a treadmill is an effective method to lose weight and stay fit.
But those are not the only benefits of a treadmill.
The Advantages of Using Treadmill
A key benefit of the treadmill is that it allows us to avoid doing our exercise routine in conditions of extreme cold, strong winds, and intense heat or humidity.
We eliminate the possibility of slipping and falling on ice and snow and heat exhaustion is also greatly reduced. In addition, slippery conditions interfere with the normal running shape and pace so the treadmill offers an alternative.
Another important advantage is that the belt operation provides a flat and cushioned surface that is easier than the outdoor terrain for the ankle, knee and hip joints. As such, a treadmill is also ideal for people with orthopedic disabilities, such as arthritis and joint pain and people who are obese or severely overweight.
Moreover, the flat surface of the treadmill does not have the inclination that we find on the road, so the belt runners are less likely to suffer from the Achilles tendon and knee injuries.
If your treadmill is nearby, you can conveniently run or walk whenever you want and you will always have easier access to a source of water, so dehydration will not be a problem. Similarly, you are always near a bathroom when nature calls.
The treadmill operation allows you to listen to music or watch TV or movies while you are working out, and that helps you to avoid boredom, especially for long runs.
With a good treadmill , you can vary your workouts by controlling speed and elevation. You can also exercise uphill without any subsequent downhill running with the risk of muscle damage.
But, as is the case with most things in life, there are some disadvantages of treadmills that you should be aware of.
The Disadvantages of the Treadmill
Despite these benefits, walking and running outdoors offer some advantages over the operation of the indoor treadmill. For starters, there’s (normally) more natural light and fresh air outside, which is great for air flow when running.
Also, exercising outdoors where the surface is mixed (hard or soft surfaces, wet or dry points) allows you to go out with changing landscapes, which can enhance the balance, strength and economy of running. It also offers different possibilities for training routes.
Moreover, when running on the treadmill, it is obvious that you are not running through the air. The lack of air resistance can be an issue for some people, especially professional athletes.
Additionally, running “on the spot” can be very boring and monotonous for some people who prefer running outdoors where they move between buildings, cars, trees, and other people.
Frequently Asked Questions to Buy and Use a Treadmill
According to the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition cited by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults need to do two types of physical activity each week to improve their health–aerobic activity and muscle strengthening.
The CDC recommends doing moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity to gain health benefits. Exercising on a treadmill can help you in this regard.
If you still have questions about this popular piece of cardio equipment, here’s a FAQ that’ll help to answer common questions.
1. How does the treadmill compare with running outdoors on artificial (road, track) or natural surfaces?
Many believe that running on the treadmill is not as challenging as running outdoors where there are unevenness, weather changes, etc.
2. Can I wear the same shoes or shoes that are used when running outdoors?
If you can use your same model of shoes however, the ideal is that the sole is as clean as possible so as not to dirty the belt. Maybe it's a good time to look for online stores with cheap running shoes and buy an extra pair for exclusive use on the treadmill,
3. What is the oxygen consumption in the treadmill versus the track race?
A study by McMiken and Daniels (1976) compared operation at 180 meters per minute (m / min), 210 m / min and 260 m min on a track and a treadmill. From a practical point of view, there were no measurable differences in oxygen consumption of the submaximal run in both conditions.
Similarly, another study by Meyer et al. (2003) found that the maximum oxygen uptake during outdoor operation did not exceed the oxygen consumption in the belt.
4. Is the lack of wind resistance on the treadmill a disadvantage for long distance runners?
While running on the belt it does not offer wind resistance, Jones & Doust (1996) concluded that setting the elevation of the belt to 1% would compensate for the loss of energy due to the lack of air resistance.
However, as the running speed increases outdoors, the wind resistance increases significantly which increases the oxygen consumption. Pugh (1971) showed that air resistance increases the workload in training between 2% and 10%, depending on the speed of the runner and the wind against it.
Oxygen consumption while running at 15.9 kilometers per hour (km / h) averaged 2.9 liters / minute (L / min) under standing conditions; increased to 3.09 L / min against a wind against 16 km h; and increased further to 4.1 l / min against a wind of 66 km / h (an additional energy expenditure of 41% to maintain the running speed).
With the treadmill running, deficiencies in energy expenditure can be remedied by establishing the level of inclination.
5. Does the treadmill alter the running technique?
Research has shown minor biomechanical differences between running on treadmill and running outdoors. For experienced runners, the belt race causes an increase in the range of movement of the legs therefore, the hip flexors stretch more than they do during outdoor operation at a comparable speed.
It remains to be seen if this represents a disadvantage, but it indicates that long-distance runners must do a large part of their outdoor training to get the best running economy. The general pattern of angular kinematics of the lower limb is similar in surface and ergometric treadmill operation (Donoghue and Harrison 2004).
Interestingly, Riley et al. (2000) discovered that running on treadmill caused a shorter stride length and more strides per minute in beginner runners who went from running outdoors to running on treadmill.
6. Does damping on a treadmill cost us more or less energy?
The surface of the treadmill is more padded than a road, which causes up to 10% less energy expenditure. This is because the "rebound" or the reactive force on the ground is softer on a treadmill, so our muscles do not have to work so hard to push us back after each step.
However, for physical activity enthusiasts and people in weight loss programs, this is no problem as it can increase the elevation of the belt or simply exercise more time to compensate for those "lost" calories.
Recommendations for Buying a Treadmill
Due to the intensive use that your treadmill will get from users of all weights and sizes, it is important to buy a durable commercial grade machine.
Consider the treadmill as an important purchase and go to a reputable company, like the one you would find at a fitness fair. With good basic maintenance your treadmill should last 7 to 12 years or more.
The treadmill must be relatively quiet (producing a "buzzing" sound), robust and capable of supporting its weight (some warranties of the treadmill are void if it weighs more than indicated on it).
Look for a model built from aircraft aluminum and capable of supporting a load of 500 pounds. The treadmill should not move when you are running over it.
Make sure you have an idea of a treadmill before buying it. Most treadmills will feel good for the first 5 minutes but after that your legs will perceive the difference in better quality models. Treadmill representatives will usually organize a test for you at a local gym for example.
Buy a machine with at least a 2.0 horsepower engine; that should be 2.0 "continuous horsepower" against the "maximum horsepower" available at full speed. Continuous service power is a measure of the sustained power during regular use. Your treadmill must be able to travel at least 10 miles per hour (mph).
Get the largest available treadmill width for your model (18-24 inches) and length (45-60 inches). Order a four-layer treadmill as it will last longer. If you are too tall, order the longest possible belt and platform (it is often called extended belt). Make sure there is enough space standing next to your feet on the side of the treadmill. The platform must be at least 1 inch thick.
The platform should have adequate cushioning and should not feel as if it were running on asphalt or cotton. Some brands of treadmills announce that their models reduce joint stress by up to 30% compared to concrete or asphalt. Choose rubber padding versus foam.
Make sure the console is easy to read and use. Look for a calorie counter, a heart rate monitor, speed (miles per hour), an ascending and descending gradient, a quick start program and several custom programs. Make sure your treadmill has a red emergency shutdown button and a green "Quick Start" button. A nice complement is a program that offers a fitness test so you can periodically assess your fitness.
Many personal trainers prefer treadmills with a database that stores training information and can even be used to schedule plans.
Expert Tips to Use a Treadmill Properly
Before running, familiarize yourself with the start / stop, the incline / decline speed, the quick start and the programming controls.
Position yourself next to the belt when starting the machine. Do not start stationary on the belt as this forces the engine and burns it faster.
I. Start slowly
Be sure to hold the side rails as you accelerate or adjust the incline.
For added security, ask them to slow down before pressing the stop button (or they are likely to fly away).
Make sure you know where the emergency button is.
Set the slope at a slope of 1% -2% to compensate for the lack of wind resistance.
Keep in mind that when you first run on a treadmill you may feel a little unbalanced, as if you were going to lean forward or slide back. You are learning a new motor skill and it can take some workouts to feel completely comfortable on the treadmill.
Tip: Be encouraged not to do all your running training on the treadmill unless the weather does not allow it. You need outdoor workouts too.
You can do long runs, tempo races, speed races, interval training, and mountain training on a treadmill. Most treadmills are connected with the most common brands of heart rate monitors so it is easy to know when you are training within the heart rate zone.
Always warm with a 10-minute jog and do a cooling exercise for 5-10 minutes, gradually decreasing the speed until it turns off.
II. Climbing training on treadmill
If you live in a flat area where the hills are hours away, a treadmill can help you adapt to the climbs, say, if you are going to compete in a race with those characteristics.
- Set the incline to 2%. Run at your standard 10K pace for 2 minutes. Change the inclination to 1%. Run at an easy pace for 2 minutes. Then run 2 minutes at 3% followed by 2 minutes at 1%. Work until you reach 6% or 7%.
- Set the inclination to 10%. Run at your 5km running pace for 1-2 minutes, focusing on the fast pace and knee lift. Run 2 sets of 4 repetitions.
- Set the inclination to 5%. Run at a rate of 10 km for 1 mile. Execute 3 or 4 repetitions.
- Set the inclination at 3%. Run at 10K pace for 3 minutes, then jog easily for 3 minutes to recover. Perform 3 or 4 repetitions. Progressively increase the number of repetitions up to 10.
- Set the inclination at 4%. Run for 5 minutes.
- Set the inclination at 5%. Run for 10 minutes.
- Set the inclination at 6%. Run for 10 minutes.
- Set the inclination at 7%. Run for 10 minutes.
Note: To estimate your 10km pace, add 20 seconds per mile to your current best 5km race pace. To estimate your 5km pace, subtract 20 seconds per mile from your current best 10km race pace.
III. Tempo running / lactate threshold training on treadmill
- Run 4-6 x 1 mile at the rate of the lactate threshold with 1 to 3-minute recovery between them.
- Run at the best current 10K race pace for 5 minutes and then easily jog for 5 minutes to recover. Repeat.
- Set the belt speed to 20 seconds per mile faster than your best recent 5K pace. Do 3 repetitions of 3 minutes, with 3 minutes of slow jogging between sets.
- Run 6 sets of 5 minutes (6 x 5 minutes) with a 1-minute break between sets.
- Run 4 sets of 3 minutes (4 x 3 minutes) with a 2-minute break between sets.
IV.Interval training for treadmill
- Run 6 x 2 minutes with a 1-minute break between sets.
- Run 6 x 60 seconds with a break of 2 to 4 minutes between sets.
- Run 10 x 60 seconds with a 2 to 4-minute break between sets.
Despite the differences in energy costs, biomechanical adjustments and lack of wind resistance compared to outdoor operation, the treadmill is still an ideal exercise mode for general cardiovascular fitness and loss of weight.
The treadmill offers most of the advantages of running outdoors, while providing a convenient, safer, and more impact resistant environment (therefore, less chance of injury), as well as quick access to hydration. It is also easy to measure and control the number of calories burned on the treadmill.
So, ultimately, have a plan or purpose for getting on the machine. Know the reason why you’re using it, how best to use the treadmill and you will increase effectiveness of your treadmill run and maximize what you’re trying to achieve.
Remember, our bodies like variety, so don’t let the treadmill be the only form of exercise that you do. Vary your exercise routine for maximum benefits.